LETTER | The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) is gravely concerned with the scheduled execution of Tangaraju Suppiah. Family members of Tangaraju were informed that the execution had been scheduled for April 26.
Tangaraju, a Singaporean, was convicted of abetting by engaging in a conspiracy with another to traffic 1017.9gm of cannabis under Section 12 of the Misuse of Drugs Act. He has been sentenced to death despite never having seen or been in possession of the cannabis.
Tangaraju was convicted of conspiring to traffick more than 1,000gm of cannabis while the co-conspirator, arrested with the cannabis, was only charged with possession of 499.9gm. It is illogical for Tangaraju, a co-conspirator who has never physically seen or held the cannabis, to have been charged and convicted of an offence carrying the death penalty when the person arrested with the actual cannabis was charged with a significantly lesser offence and for half the quantity of drugs.
Apart from the circumstantial evidence against Tangaraju and the inconsistencies in the co-conspirators' testimonies identifying him as part of the enterprise, there were no indications that Tangaraju had any role in drug-trafficking operations. There were no drugs found on him during his arrest, and neither were there any drugs or other evidence generally associated with trafficking operations.
During the police investigation, he was not entitled to a lawyer and his request for an interpreter when making his statement was denied. He also had to appear for himself on his unsuccessful application to reopen the appeal late last year.
Highest standard of rigour
While Singapore has sovereignty over its criminal justice system and the use of the death penalty within its territories, it does not render it any less illogical and absurd for the death penalty to be applied in cases of conspiracies, where the convicted person may have never even seen nor handled the drug themselves.
Despite Singapore's insistence, international law remains abundantly clear that the offence of drug trafficking does not fall under the category of the 'most serious crimes', much less when the charge is related to a conspiracy offence.
When the penalty is death, the judicial system ought to be held to the highest standard of rigour and review. Tangaraju's case raises a number of legitimate fair trial concerns and indicates that far from being a 'drug kingpin', he is a person with a number of vulnerabilities which has no place on death row.
ADPAN calls on the government of Singapore to halt the execution of Tangaraju and implement a moratorium for all executions pending legal reforms to at least bring Singapore in line with international law on the application of the death penalty. Ultimately, Singapore should join the global trend towards abolishing the death penalty.
SKY SIAW is project officer of Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN).
ADPAN is the peak regional body for organisations committed to the abolition of the death penalty across Asia-Pacific, with members from 20 countries within the region.